A reply to genocide deniers.

There are basically two kinds of genocide deniers:

Those for whom the existence of a genocide becomes a taboo, which allows them to live in peace with their good conscience, by pretending to believe in something that they know it is a falsification of truth. They know, they just don’t admit it, until, after a certain time, they interiorize the fake version as if it was not fake. I have found a lot of people like that in Serbia and among serbs who live abroad, and it is sometimes heartbreaking to see people that try to live a decent life and to behave according to high moral standards, people whom anybody could call good people, supporting through their silence, the most immoral of all human actions and its perpetrators. If you happen to tackle the subject, they will then try to relativise it, but with a clear discomfort, or maybe they will just say that they don’t want to talk about it. Usually there is a tacit agreement not to talk about the taboo issue, and I never take the initiative of unveiling the taboo with these people, whom I meet for reasons that are not related to my work. I will write my impressions about these people, as well as about my moral dilemmas towards them in another occasion.

For now I want to focus on the other category of genocide deniers, those who actively contribute to fabricate  and maintain the fake version that is then ‘sold’ to those on the above mentioned category, and to outsiders who are not properly informed, and we cannot expect normal people with no links to the region to be fully aware of what happened.

It has happened to me quite often that people confuse me with those not very well informed people, because I look dumb, and I often play dumb in order to see up to each point people try to manipulate me, so I know their strategies.

At a personal level, these people can be very persuasive. Their aggressiveness can be most clearly perceived when they put comments on blogs or news sites. One of the comments in my post about the case of Hasan Nuhanović against the dutch state highlights precisely this point, by recommending the readers to check the comments on this post published by Julijana Mojsilovic on Balkan Insight.

Here is one of those comments:

(…) To finish. You parrot the Western like that men and BOYS were killed at Srebrenica. As far as I know when someone reaches the age of 18 one is considered a man. Women and children were given safe passage. Even the BBC showed that!

The agressiveness of these comments was properly spotted by other readers, such as the person who then posted this comment:

You are indeed a unique and amazing human being for being able to see the truth in the world for what it is. Many of the posts before me show that clearly many people live in denial of basic facts. They do not know of objective fact-seeking, but rather look for information sources that fit their extremist and ignorant views.

There are abhorrent accusations of Muslim terror and all that in these comments and I am dumbfounded that people can make such baseless facts. There is no use in arguing with you people. The world will embrace Serbia only once more people think like you Julijana

Still, for the sake of those not very well informed people who sometimes drop by through their google searches, I am posting the photos of the graves of:

EDIN OSMANOVIĆ, born in 1979.

1995-1979= 16.

OSMAN ALIĆ, born in 1981.

1995-1981= 14.

SADIK HUSEINOVIĆ, born in 1982.

1995-1982= 13.

I took these photos myself in Potocari, in 11 July 2008. I don’t feel very comfortable in posting them because after all these are the remains of someone’s son, nephew, cousin, friend, but I feel even more discomfort if I don’t post them.

If the dates and names are not clear enough, please click on the photos.

The Srebrenica Genocide Blog has a parcial list of the children killed in Srebrenica.

And here is a good text on genocide denial, by Vladimir Petrović.

Now, I’ll just post this link there as a comment…


Filed under Bosnia, Children, Culture of denial, Duty of memory, Genocide, Serbia, Srebrenica, Uncategorized

18 responses to “A reply to genocide deniers.

  1. Owen

    Thanks Sarah. It’s tedious to keep having to go over the evidence time after time after time. It will never stop, we know the Holocaust deniers will never give up, why should these people? The truth means nothing to them. But as long as the truth is there to confront them they’ll always be recognisable for what they are.

    And let’s salute all the brave Belgraders like Julijana Mojsilovic who refuse to let them get away with it.

  2. Sarah Franco

    thanks for the comment, Owen!

    It’s tedious but necessary, also because in this way we give support to those people like Juliana Mojsilovic who have to face people like that on a daily basis.

  3. Owen

    I understand your concern about the way that photographs are used in an often thoughtless and indiscriminate way but sometimes it’s possible on reflection to judge whether it was justifiable (I agree that you were right to publish those sad photographs of the memorials).

    I was horrified when the Guardian printed the picture of Ferida Osmanovic who hanged herself outside the refugee camp at Tuzla, in despair at having been separated from her husband at Potocari.

    At first I felt that the photograph (by Darko Bandic) stripped the last elements of dignity from her in death. But after thinking about it I realised that publishing the picture was a way of giving a voice to her suffering and allowing her even after death to express outrage at what had been done.

    At the core of the reporting that accompanied the use of the photograph (and so much more of the admirable way the Guardian covered the Bosnian war) I believed was respect for her and an awareness of what had been done to her and her family. I was glad to have my opinion confirmed by a follow-up article that Lorna Martin wrote for the Observer coming up to the tenth anniversary – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/17/warcrimes.lornamartin

    The use of photographs is justified when the central consideration in the use of the photograph is respect for the individual subject even while the photograph is being used to make a wider point. It is when the individual is forgotten in the process of making the point that the use of the photograph becomes abusive.

    (Darko Bandic’s portfolio including the original photograph is at http://www.dbandic.com/pages/portfolio.html#
    Click on Fall of Srebrenica.
    He also has a portfolio of “Bosnia: Ten years after beginning of war, 2002.” at http://www.dbandic.com/recent/Bosnia_%20Ten%20years%20after%20beginning%20of%20war,%202002/default.htm)

  4. Sarah Franco

    Owen, thank your this comment and for the links. This is a difficult subject that deserves a deep reflection, because I would like to work with images in the future, not just text.

    the photo you mention is indeed disturbing.

  5. Sarah Franco

    this issue of images does bother me, since I started studying the wars in former Yugoslavia, I can’t stand watching violent fiction films anymore.

    I don’t have a problem with documentaries, photos, etc, as long as they display real images, even very violent ones, and in fact it’s easier for me to get impressed by witnesses accounts or written descriptions than by images, but I can’t stand war films.

    I don’t watch them unless it’s important for my work, for example, if I want to understand how a certain event is portrayed in fiction and what political meaning we can extract from that.

  6. Ben

    Dear Sarah,

    I am the reader on the BalkanInsight page that praised Julijana and you have quoted me in your text above. Thankyou for doing that. I am glad that you and I think alike, as I sometimes get extremely disappointed when I read posts that utterly deny the genocide in Srebrenica and elsewhere.

    They are an extremely vocal group and they have littered the internet with websites documenting false histories. No wonder narrow-minded people regurgitate this claptrap.

    I survived the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, and nobody can convince me that it was anything but. The wilful and planned destruction of cultural, religious and historical artefacts, architecture and icons, coupled with the destruction of records and re-naming of streets and towns is clearly genocide. More so, the instigated and planned brutality, torture, executions and mass-murder of civilians that occured at Srebrenica and throughout Bosnia by Karadzic and Mladic’s Republika Srpska is so blatant and obvious that I do not know how people can deny what happened.

    The saddest thing really is that the legacy of the genocide lives on with the continuity of the Republika Srpska. It is a blatant reward for genocide and perpetuates the ideology it was founded on – a mono-ethnic, xenophobic and genocidal institution. Its existence violates all levels of human morality and international laws, just as if the Third Reich were to have been allowed to perpetuate to this day. The Dayton Accords were signed by Bosnians under duress – much like having a gun pointed to one’s head.

    Justice can only come with:

    1) The trial of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic
    2) The annulment of and disintegration of Republika Srpska and ethno-centric divisions (i.e. the reintegration of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sovereign state with equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of religion or race – just like any Western democracy)
    3) The trial of all war criminals on all sides
    4) The exhumation and identification of all mass-grave victims
    5) An apology and acknowledgement from Serb leaders, recognising their country’s involvement in and the lack of preventing countless acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity
    6) The return of all displaced persons and their property in a safe and multi-cultural Bosnia (i.e. pre-war status quo)

    These are my views and I welcome further comment and discussion. The EU needs to get serious on resolving the underlying barriers to Bosnia’s progress as to create a stable, tolerant and prosperous multi-ethnic society.

    Thankyou for the opportunity to express my views.

    Warm regards and best wishes,

  7. Sarah Franco

    Ben, thank you for your comment and your support. it means a lot to me.

  8. Owen

    Ben, you may be interested in Allan Little’s report on Republika Srpska for BBC2 Newsnight. It was shown last night but you can catch it at the Newsnight website for the next week. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dk77f/
    – you can skip to 28 minutes 15 seconds into the programme. This is an edited version of the full one hour programme including an interview with Hasan Nuhanovic referring to the “smaller fish” which will be shown next week on BBC News channel and on BBC World.

  9. Owen

    Sarah, in Allan Little’s Newsnight item that I’ve given Ben the link to Allan interviews a man called Jusuf Trbic, who was fortunate to survive the takeover of Bijeljina.

    Allan Little interviewed Jusuf Trbic in front of the brick wall which was the background to Ron Haviv’s famous picture of one of Arkan’s men kicking the body of a woman, one of a group of three bodies on the pavement.
    The picture was also shown, very prominently. I was pleased to see Allan Little put the BBC so firmly behind Haviv’s photo because it has been the subject of so many attacks by the deniers and apologists.

    Like so many of the pictures he took it is a horrible scene but one which does not abuse the victims. It shows the contempt in which their murderers held them but the photo takes the viewer immediately to the heart of what is going on. The picture tells the world what has been going on Bijeljina but we don’t lose sight of the woman at whom the boot is aimed.

    Haviv’s “photo essay” on Bosnia – Blood and Honey – is at http://photoarts.com/haviv/

  10. Sarah Franco

    Owen, by coincidence I was looking to that photo just yesterday… it is on the cover of a book published by the helsinki committee for human rights in serbia. I also remember having seen the whole sequence, before and after the woman in killed. if I needed to quickly explain the war in Bosnia to someone those would be the photos I would show (in fact I already did that)…

    thank you for the link.


    this letter to boris tadic by natasha kandic refering to Haviv’s photos grasps, in my opinion, the essence of the prevailing political options in Serbia regarding what is called there ‘facing the past’

    and thanks for the reminder on the bbc report by Allan Little. I didn’t watch it, because I almost don’t watch tv, so I will try to watch it on BBC world next week.

  11. Dear Sarah,

    In order to deny and justify Srebrenica genocide, many apologists question how could Serbs commit genocide by killing mostly men and elderly, while at the same time deciding to deport most women and children from the U.N. ‘protected’ Srebrenica enclave?

    Here is an updated (and expanded) response to this question:


  12. Sarah Franco

    Thank you, Daniel, I see that you expanded the article to deepen the issue of the use of rape as a weapon of genocide.
    your blog is a very precious resource to people of good will who want to know and it’s good to be in such good company, with people like you and owen and others.

  13. Sarah, thanks for the great post. You have touched the most crucial point with it in talking about the post-war reality in Bosnia. Denial of genocide is the denial of us, as human beings. That same denial forced me somehow to start blog in English although my English skills are more than modest. Listening to politicians who had denied and who are still denying it today and living in Bosnia at the same time – is a vicious attack on my sanity and mental well being. I was planing to write a longer post about it and maybe one day I will.

  14. Sarah Franco

    your blog is excellent, I will be waiting for that post!

    thank you for the comment. It makes me understand that what I do has a purpose that is worthy insisting on.

  15. Ben

    Dear Sarah,

    Excuse my delay in replying to your e-mail. I have been so busy with my university work 🙂 You do such an amazing job here. The first moment I get free, I am going to sit down and write you a proper reply e-mail.

    I have to admit that people like you rebuild my trust in humanity and redeem a lot of the injustice that floats around in this world. Your blog is a valuable collection of truths which is so very important to the Srebrenica legacy.

    Many, if not most, Srebrenica victims would never be able to voice their frustrations at the genocide denial that is out there. Some may not be able to express their experiences in English, whilst others that can are intimidated and too scared to speak out. That is why your work is so important. Thankyou for giving the real victims a voice. I have insurmountable and limitless gratitude for your efforts, and am forever indebted to you.

    With best wishes,

  16. Sarah Franco

    Ben, thank you so much for your kind words, it means a lot to me.

  17. Mark

    Wow, 3 people praising eachother.What a great blog!

  18. Sarah Franco

    Mark, your irony is misplaced. This blog doesn’t intend to be great. It intends to give a voice to decent people who fight for truth and justice, as is the case of the 3 people who you claim to be praising each other.